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Elderly Baysider fights eviction

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Henry Mennecke is 87 and spends nice summer days sitting outside the Bayside apartment he has rented for about $200 for the past 20 years, maneuvering his clunky motorized wheelchair into a shady spot and waving hello to passersby.

Days when the weather prevents the retired supermarket manager from enjoying the sunshine are often spent watching television inside his modest three-room basement apartment, which he shared with his wife Vera until she died of cancer six years ago.

The last month has given Mennecke more to do than read the newspaper or admire the generally peaceful atmosphere of Bayside: he has been fighting off an eviction attempt by the new owner of his 201st Street apartment complex, who claims the senior must leave because he has been living in an illegal apartment.

Mennecke, who has been in a wheelchair since a stroke 13 months ago, claims he never knew his apartment was illegal. A lawyer for the new owner said some residents of the complex have been complaining for several months about the illegal apartment. The lawyer, Kirk Karabelas, also claims the new owner, Terry Triades, has no record of Mennecke ever paying rent on the apartment.

The elderly father of two grown sons, who keeps the two large rooms, kitchen and bathroom of the apartment immaculately neat, Mennecke has a yellowed envelope full of rent receipts made out to Alpha Realty, which he believes is the original owner.

“So many old people don’t have their marbles and they can’t tell you what’s happening to them,” Mennecke said in an interview last week. “I never thought it would happen to me, but it did.”

Always quick with a smile or a joke, Mennecke, who grew up in Brooklyn and lived in Douglaston and Hollis before moving to the Bayside apartment complex directly across the street from the Ozanam Hall Nursing home, spoke freely of his time at the apartment complex near 42nd Avenue on 201st Street.

Mennecke had a running joke with the original owner of the building, he said, in which he was considered part of the complex’s security because he was always outside keeping an eye on things. The senior claims he once helped rid the area around the apartment complex of drug dealers; hence the idea Mennecke was “part of security.”

When Triades took over the building in May, he introduced himself to Mennecke, the longtime tenant said. The next month a letter dated June 20 arrived from Triades, of Pandora Realty LLC, ordering Mennecke to get out.

“He came to me and said ‘we’ll take care of you,’” Mennecke said of his meeting with Triades. “If you want to take care of me, leave me alone.”

Since then Mennecke has appeared in civil court and the case was adjourned until Aug. 8 to give a city inspector time to visit the apartment to determine whether or not it is illegal. The inspector was expected to see Mennecke’s apartment Monday.

Karabelas, of the firm Mihos Karabelas & Papagianopoulos in Astoria representing the new owner, said Triades was aware that Mennecke had no place to move to and felt bad about the situation. The lawyer refused to comment further, citing the ongoing litigation.

Mennecke said he pays about $200 in rent a month, which is all he can afford since the family savings were spent to care for his ailing wife.

“My wife was in terrible pain,” Mennecke said, his eyes misting over at the memory. “We had $300,000, but I don’t have anything anymore. I’m glad I could take care of her. But money goes out like water when you play with doctors.”

Moving in with either of his children, who live in Staten Island and New Jersey, was not an option, the independent Mennecke said.

“I don’t want to go and disturb them,” said Mennecke, who said his sons would have to renovate their homes to accommodate his wheelchair.

Mennecke said he prefers to do things on his own, refusing social services like Meals on Wheels and only depends on someone to get his groceries once a week.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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